The BIG ORANGE SPLOT...Another Funky, Inspiring Picture Book Favorite
Walking down memory road here again for #picturebookmonth! Last week I looked at Remy Charlip's Arm in Arm because it was one of my faves as a kid in the 70s and remains so. I'm sticking with my 70s bender here today, taking a look at another somewhat experimental favorite, Daniel Pinkwater's THE BIG ORANGE SPLOT, 1977. Written as uniform housing developments were starting to take hold in suburban communities, with tidy lawns and limited paint choices- THE BIG ORANGE SPLOT speaks in a daring way about non-conformism, self-expression, and how everyone can be an artist in their own way.
Here's the basic deal- an errant seagull is carrying a bucket of paint for some reason and drops a big orange splot on Mr. Plumbean's roof, which sits on his house, which sits on a street of houses that are tidy and all look the same. Instead of covering it up, the splot inspires him to express himself through painting and decorating his house in the wildest ways and much to the chagrin of his tidy neighbors. They try to reason with Mr. Plumbean and end up inspired to express themselves and their dreams through their own houses.
Here's the splot (and Mr. Plumbean).
And how his house changes:
And how this inspires his neighbors and transforms the entire neighborhood:
Why do I love this book so much? Well, first off, it's really funny...From subtle little bits like this:
"A seagull flew over Mr. Plumbean's house He was carrying a can of bright orange paint. (no one knows why)
And he dropped the can (no one knows why) right over Mr. Plumbean's house."
To the clever, goofy ways Mr. Plumbean's neighbors question his sanity...
"Plumbean has popped his cork, flipped his wig, blown his stack and dropped his stopper."
"Plumbean has gushed his much, lost his marbles and slipped his hawser."
...we see a funny exploration of one tiny, strange happening and how it can change big things. THE BIG ORANGE SPLOT is about how people can judge each other and can also inspire each other and how one person's willingness to be different can create a sea change.
What's more, it's got a funky 70s storytelling vibe. The illustration which is whimsical and folksy...and really funny too. My kids love this book and I love that it gave them an early look at individualism in the face of public scrutiny. Maybe that's why they both wear mismatched socks knee socks all the time?
If you've never read this one, give it a go. It's a hoot.